Ronan Neacy is the director of business for Junior Chamber of Ireland (JCI). Here he talks about entrepreneurship, networking and president John F. Kennedy. 

What is JCI?

Junior Chamber International (JCI) is an organisation that provides leadership and development opportunities for young people in their 20s and 30s. It’s a global organisation which has a presence in over 100 countries. Each national organisation comprises of branches throughout their country. More specifically JCI provides opportunities in four areas which are business, community, individual development and international. Different activities, projects and training are run across each of those areas.

When was JCI established and what is its greatest achievement?

On a global level, JCI was founded in 1915 in the United States, and JCI Ireland was established in 1957. While the organisation has been a positive influence on the business and economic climate, I would have to say the greatest achievement is how it has developed the many members that have passed through the organisation over the years. Many of the members have become some of the most influential people in the world, attributing a lot of their success to what they learned in JCI. These past members have included John F Kennedy, Kofi Annan and Bill Clinton. JFK is famously quoted as saying, “Harvard gave me an education but Junior Chamber gave me an education for life.”

What are the benefits for members?

I believe a major benefit of joining JCI is the personal development that one gets from the great pieces of training and academies that are run across many areas such as leadership, communications and project management. That has indeed been most beneficial for me where I have developed different skills that have helped me in my career and personal life.

How many members do you currently have in Ireland?

Over 150.

How can people join?

Applying to join JCI Ireland is very simple, you simply complete the online application form with payment on the JCI Ireland website, choosing your preferred branch at the same time

How is the organisation developing?

The organisation was extremely active in Ireland several decades ago, however, unfortunately, went through a period of decline for different reasons. It has been growing again in line with the economic recovery, and I see it continuing the growth trajectory to a place where it’s solid in ten years. Many entrepreneurs see JCI as a great avenue to help with building their businesses, and many young professionals are becoming aware of how it can benefit their careers and help strengthen their network.

JCI runs ‘Ireland’s Friendliest Business Awards’. What are they?

The competition began ten years ago. We recognise and applaud businesses that show great customer service. We have seen a significant growth in entries in the last two years since Bank of Ireland has come on board as the sponsor. 

If you were ‘in charge’ of the country, what would you do to encourage more entrepreneurship?

I would introduce a practical entrepreneurship subject in the school curriculum with examinations included in both the Junior and Leaving Certificates. It’s essential to encourage entrepreneurship among students in school who, regardless, are already taking the entrepreneurial initiative themselves. With enough education and support in people’s earlier years, the potential in that space would be massive.

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